It was a mixed weekend for St George

It’s hard to imagine a stranger weekend than the one St George just completed: on Saturday, they were thrashed outright by a Fairfield-Liverpool team that hadn’t mustered a single point from the first six rounds; but then, on Sunday, St George produced an heroic effort to upset strong favourites Randwick-Petersham (who themselves had won outright the day before) in their T20 semi-final. It was a memorable Sunday for Luke Bartier, who opened the innings for the Saints and was first out (to the first ball of the fourth over) for 33 from 17 balls, having scored every one of his side’s runs. He then backed up with the ball, grabbing four for 26 in his four overs to help his side defend a slightly sub-par total. Thomas Ortiz continued his outstanding T20 form, following his hat-trick in Round Four with 3-14 from three overs. Ortiz dismissed the dangerous Daniel Bell-Drummond early in the innings, then took the vital wicket of David Warner late in the day. Warner, who hit 62 from 60 balls, seemed thoroughly in control until he drilled a lofted drive to deep extra cover, where Andrew Walsh held a well-judged catch diving forward. St George meets Sutherland in the Sixers Conference final at the SCG next Sunday; Sydney University and Penrith play in the Thunder Conference final.

The answer to “bowler’s name?” might be harder than you expected

A large part of St George’s pain on Saturday was inflicted by Kazimierz Boleslaw Szymanski, who collected six of the last seven wickets to fall to finish with 6-34 on his First Grade debut for the Fairfield-Liverpool Lions. Szymanski, a 19 year old right-arm seamer, is of Polish descent but was actually born in Devon, in South-West England, and plays his cricket for Wales (in the Minor Counties competition) and the Glamorgan Second Eleven. In his four Second Grade games this season, he’s managed only five wickets at 47.60, but he was untroubled by the step up to Firsts and triggered a collapse in which St George lost its last seven wickets for only 37 runs. Fairfield now has the record of played seven, lost six, won one outright, which is just weird.

Stuart Meaker still has a bit to offer

In the last round of matches in last season’s County Second Eleven Championship, Szymanski found himself playing against Surrey’s former England fast bowler Stuart Meaker - who is also in Sydney this season, turning out for Eastern Suburbs. Meaker, born in South Africa, made such a strong impact after his debut for Surrey in 2008 that he represented England in Limited Overs games and T20 matches in 2011-12 and 2012-13. He excited the English coaching staff when he was regularly clocked bowling above 150 kilometers an hour in training. But he then suffered knee and shoulder trouble, and lost his place in Surrey’s side after the rise of the Curran brothers and the signing of Morne Morkel. He played little first team cricket for Surrey in 2018, when he was troubled by a rib injury, but continued his rehabilitation in spectacular style for Easts on Saturday. Easts were defending 252 at Allan Border Oval - usually a difficult task. But Meaker, who is still lively and now has greater control than earlier in his career, took the first seven wickets, including Mosman’s two young stars, Anthony Adlam and Lachie Hearne, both for ducks. George Furrer interrupted the party by dismissing top-scorer Nathan Hinton for 64, but Meaker wrapped up the innings with 8-42, salvaging some improbable but important points for the Dolphins.

Zak Crawley is possibly unlucky

The Grade Cricketer has always argued that there is nothing in cricket more enjoyable than performing well in a losing team. By that standard, Zak Crawley’s weekend was phenomenal. The 20 year old Kent batsman, currently helping out Sydney, hit 76 not out against UTS North Sydney in Round Seven, which enabled Dan Smith to declare at 4 for 380. Which sounds as though it should have been enough, and indeed things looked good for Sydney when Nic Bills removed Ben Bryant with the third ball of the North Sydney innings. But Tom Jagot (125 not out) and Adam Crosthwaite (143 not out) shared an unbroken stand of 261 in 246 minutes to run down the target with time to spare. The long day in the field clearly didn’t tire Crawley out, because on Sunday he went in at 3 for 57 against Sutherland in the T20 semi-final, and blasted 100 not out from only 42 balls. This, unsurprisingly, is a Sydney T20 record. He hammered five fours and cleared the fence a ridiculous nine times, sweeping left-armer Ben Dwarshuis as though he were a gentle spinner. And Sydney lost. Jarryd Biviano and Peter Saroukos gave Sutherland a blistering start, after which Steve Smith walloped 61 from 33 and Dwarshuis and Dan Rixon finished off in style. You really should not hit 100 not out off 42 balls and lose. Even if some of those runs were scored from Steve Smith’s bowling.

Campbelltown’s season just turned upside down

Before last weekend, Campbelltown-Camden has been consistently disappointing in two-day cricket, and exceptional in the T20 games. That just turned around, suddenly and unexpectedly. On Saturday, the Ghosts chased down a target of 310 with a minimum of fuss: Phil Wells (70), Jaydyn Simmons (58 not out) and Jordan Browne (54) all played accomplished innings to run down Bankstown’s total with plenty of time to spare. On day one, Luke Courtney had celebrated his return to First Grade with 5-32 to help contain Bankstown to a catchable score. But Sunday was another story. In its home T20 semi-final, Campbelltown bowled adeptly to hold Sydney University to 9 for 130. Aaron Yabsley and Wells then got the innings away to an excellent start, taking 53 runs from the first 7.5 overs. That left the Ghosts needing 78 from 73 balls with all their wickets intact - and the side that chased 310 the day before could have done that with ease. But leg spinner Devlin Malone then struck, removing both openers, and University captain Liam Robertson strangled the middle order with his medium-paced variations. Momentum can swing quickly in T20 games. In the space of four overs, Campbelltown lost four for 16, and the innings never quite recovered, University easing home by 16 runs. So the bad news for Campbelltown: no trip to the SCG. The good news: the two-day form that won the Ghosts the minor premiership last season seems to be returning.